What's Out There?
Honoring Native Land
Direct archaeological dating of 9,000+ years for artifacts and material culture, and 14,000+ years for petroglyphs dated within the Winnemucca Valley suggest that indigenous ancestors of the Nuumu people have been in this region for countless generations. When the first Americans inhabited western Nevada, they lived concurrently with relic Pleistocene animals and thrived on the resources associated with the massive Lake Lahontan, which covered more than 8,000 square miles of western Nevada. During this time, the Sahwave Mountains would have been part of a massive island in the middle of ancient Lake Lahontan, which would have supported flora and fauna quite different from today. The ancestral Native Americans would have utilized the resources of the early Holocene in the Sahwave Mountains as well as the lakeshore resources associated the smaller, isolated lakes that surrounded the mountains. Recent discoveries in New Mexico indicate the ancestors of Native Americans walked upon North American soil at least 23,000 years ago, utilizing lakeshore resources. The North Sahwave may well be part of one of the oldest continually occupied Native American homelands in North America. (See the “Blue Wing Trail” within the Additional Resources Tab for more information on the importance of the North Sahwave Mountains to the Nuumu people.)
Lt. E.G. Beckwith, working for the Department of the Army to survey possible routes for the Transcontinental Railroad in 1854, was the first Euro American to describe the Sahwave Mountains area. His party left the known Nobles Immigrant trail at Lassen Meadows on the Humboldt River, searching for a lower gradient for a railroad to reach the portion of the Nobles Trail in the vicinity of what would become Gerlach. This region held few resources and interest for EuroAmericans until the area became a focus for grazing livestock to supply food for the booming mines in the greater Lovelock area. Several small mines were developed in and around the Sahwave Mountains. The anticipated booms and wealth never actually developed. For the greater part of its historical existence, the Sahwave Mountains were mostly ignored and bypassed by EuroAmerican interests. (See the Additional Resources) Tab for more information on the history of the North Sahwave Mountains.)
The North Sahwave Mountains, unlike most mountains in Nevada, are fairly geologically simple. The range consists primarily of 88 to 100 million-year-ago (Ma) granitic intrusions dating from the Cretaceous Period. The most common component is a Granodiorite dated to 92 Ma. A small, latter intrusion (dating to 88 Ma) of Granordiortie appears in the southern-most portion of the wilderness, and the northern portion transitions into a slightly different chemically-composed Granodiorite dating to 93Ma. Scattered thoughout the North Sahwave Mountains are concurrent (Creteacous Period) aplite, pegmatite, and leucogranite dikes, which often include crystalline structures of interest to rock hounds. Several later (Tertiary Period) dikes comprised of andesite, rhyolite and basalt dikes create addition opportunities discover interesting, apparently “out-of-place” rocks. All of these rocks were faulted and uplifted as essentially a single unit during the basin and range mountain-building epoch, beginning about 20 million years ago.
The Sahwave Mountains provide summer and transitional range for mule deer. American kestrels, Gray flycatchers, upland game birds, coyotes and bobcats live within the area. Pronghorn utilize the open foothills and surrounding flats. The multitude of granitic cliffs and boulder outcrops within this area provide secure nesting sites and perches for large predatory birds. Visitors are often surprised by the large shadow of a soaring golden eagle crossing their path. Wild horse and burro trails wind throughout the area. Winters in the North Sahwave can be deeply quiet. Spring bursts forth with a visual riot of the many wildflower species and a cacophony of bird songs.
Dispersed juniper form the most Prominent vegetation species in the North Sahwave Mountain. The high-desert sagebrush community, however, forms most the wide spread and representative vegetation The higher elevations supports limited native grass communities along with bitter brush, ephedra, rabbit brush, and a wide diversity of wildflowers in the spring following heavy winter precipitation. The juniper trees vanish at lower elevations and the sagebrush transitions into a saltbush plant community. The rare springs and seeps scattered across the Wilderness support limited riparian vegetation including an occasional cottonwood tree.